The United States has asked the European Community for consultations on the exports of community semifinished steel products to the United States, community officials said.
The officials said Friday they were surprised and concerned by the U.S. request, which came a month after the two trading partners announced a settlement of their dispute over the level of community steel pipe and tube exports to the United States.
"We are a bit astonished" by the U.S. move, one community official said, especially because President Reagan called for the expansion of world trade in his State of the Union address Wednesday.
Semifinished steel products are not covered by existing steel agreements between the United States and the 10-nation community.
The United States is apparently concerned that community steel producers are getting around the existing limits on finished steel products by boosting exports of semifinished goods, the community source said. Under the 1982 U.S.-EC agreement limiting community carbon-steel exports, the United States can call for consultations if it believes there has been a violation of the accord through the increased exports of other steel products. If no settlement is reached in the consultations, unilateral action can be taken to limit the exports.
The community exported about 500,000 tons of semifinished steel products to the United States in the first 10 months of 1984, while total world exports of the products to the United States during that same period were about 1.1 million tons, community officials said. The average market value of the semifinished products is about $140 a ton.
U.S. imports of the semifinished products, both from Europe and other sources, have increased steadily over the past few years, the community official said. Much of the increase can be attributed to the high value of the dollar, which makes foreign exports more attractive to U.S. buyers.